CENTRAL ASIA

Against whom are we friends?

Are conflicts in the region possible?

Auzhan KARALANG

ALMATY, Feb 24

(Specially for THE GLOBE)

Today’s Central Asia is “the vanities fair.” These vanities are worded by the global Utopian and hence, amorphous conceptions of the Central Asian countries’ policies consisting of general phrases. As a rule, their details not disclosed. Maybe, they are not elaborated at all. However, most of them are the secret of Polishinel. “The geostrategic” ambitions are not realistic, but are obvious especially in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. If the situation does not change, they will cause the further crystallization of strategic priorities of the regional policy. In future, we should logically expect it necessary to ground the states’ “traditional” and “historical” borders. Potentially this may result in territorial claims, international and interstate conflicts. Most probably, sharp problems will emerge in interrelations between “historical sister nations”, the closets neighbors being declared today and between other “players” in Central Asian region, whose role is still being underestimated.

There is nothing so shortsighted as to think that the history cannot repeat.

First signs of this process are showing up. Symptoms of this did exist before. They were, for example, Soviet Uzbekistan’s badly hidden displeasure caused by the transfer of the Paht-Aral region to Soviet Kazakhstan; the internal conflict connected with the project of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialistic Republic for conduction of waters from the Karkara River to Issyk-Kul, which could make the Kegen valley and the valley of the Charyn River in Kazakhstan deserts. That time the Kazakh Soviet Social Republic had to work out projects for the Kensai or Bestyubin reservoirs on the Kegen River. Kazakhstan realized the project for construction of the Big Alma-Ata Channel to irrigate the Akdalin valley. The construction of the Kapchagai reservoir had also external political reasons, as it was to protect Soviet Kazakhstan from possible turning off of the Ili River waters in Sintszyan. At present China is realizing this project, as well as project for turning off a part of waters of the Irtysh River feeding eastern Kazakhstan; the Tekes River, which lower stream irrigates the bordering fertile lands of the Raimbek (Narynkol) region of the Almaty oblast. Sources of conflicts are also situated in the regions of the Syr-Darya, Amu-Darya basins and in the Aral and Caspian regions. In the latter the situation aggravated by hydrocarbon deposits and competition for control for these deposits, in which either directly or indirectly not only Central Asian countries, but also Russia, the U.S.A., the UK, France, China, Iran and Arabic OPEC countries, as well as two new and very unstable nuclear states – India and Pakistan participate.

For many centuries, and repeatedly, water reserves and control for it was sources of political pressure and blackmailing, a powerful economic and political weapon. There is nothing so shortsighted as to think that the history cannot repeat. Today’s Central Asian states remain “hydraulic” as they were in the Middle Ages. There is a saying: “to kill a small aryk (“an irrigation ditch”) is equal to killing a man.” During the international conflict between the Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks happened in the Osh valley, such an aryk caused murder of tens of people, burned houses, robberies and assaults of women. That time the conflict interpreted as the “domestic” conflict inside the USSR. Central Asia is catastrophically dependent on the water resources deficit. The deserting process is equal here to genocide, it is accompanied by changes to the structure and the number of the population and is able both to undermine lethally the productive forces and to cause significant political consequences and at least weakening sovereignty. Central Asian countries inclined to overestimate their sovereignties and their high perspective development. They also significantly overestimate their security, as despite their wish to create regional security systems, they have to deal with it independently, after the USSR collapsed. The unstable situation in the region is evident. Many countries, including wise “players” that are not beginners who sometimes are permitted to “play with bricks,” are interested in creating conditions profitable for themselves.

The history does not break, but tends to repeat. It may repeat not as a farce, but as a tragedy. New “elite” of the Central Asian countries either fear to think of the scale of this tragedy or are not going to think of it at all, according to the outlook of “minions.” They hope that they will have enough time to guarantee their future and personal security until the catastrophe happens and becomes irreversible.

Today symptoms of old diseases of the new states do not seem too alarming. So, cancer sometimes seems a slow disease: the patient “get used to” it and even has fun at joint banquets, but then the crisis happens and he cannot get up any longer. Forthcoming troubles may be, for example, numerous conflicts connected with water resources distribution. Now the heads of the governments and Ministers of Foreign Affairs will have to settle these conflicts. What can be as ordinary as stealing cattle (barymta) from the other republic or bordering crimes? They existed in the Soviet period. But now they, as well as the transfer of the Customs posts deep into the neighboring country and Uzbekistan’s efforts to delimitate the border near the Sary-Agash region, when Uzbeks tries to move the border by 20 km deeper into the Kazakhstan’s territory, caused a harsh note by the Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry. Not that is the Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan who speaks of the incidents. Hence, they began to understand intuitively the meaning of these events, including the capture of some auls (villages) in Kyrgyzstan by armed groups, that are interpreted sometimes as Uzbek, sometimes – Tajik Islamists or Vakhabits. We should not underestimate the pending problem of the so-called Bukhara and Samarkand Sogda, where up to 2 million ethnical Tajiks have been living from ancient times. This problem caused a number of bloody conflicts in the Osh Valley and in the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley, where up to 500,000 Uzbeks live. We should not ignore the problem of the Karakalpaks and Kazakhs in Uzbekistan; possible stirring up of Turkmens’ moods to gain revenge in Mangyshlak; and finally, the problem of illegal immigrants from China who are eager to become legalized in Central Asia. At present these “troubles” are getting regular. In a definite moment the process may become oriented and organized…

The “Tajik” problem in Uzbekistan is already urgent in relations between Tashkent and Dushanbe, as well in the Tashkent’s relations with Taliban.

Kazakhstan already (or for the time being?) has lost about 500 sq. km. of its territory, which the country gave to China hidden the deal by the wording “refinement of borders” or “historical borders” that is more characteristic. “Refinement” was conducted exclusively at the expense of Kazakhstani territories! The country gave plots in strategically important regions of the Han Tengri system. In fact, China controls the entire Dzhungarian Gates’ region. By the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China Kazakhstan presented a generous “gift” to China. In fact, it gave strategically important Kolzhat in the Uigurian region (Almaty oblast), which the Chinese ambassador was pleased to announce. Kazakhstan has completely isolated from the SUAR problems, where a great Kazakh Diaspora lives that is being actively assimilated by Chinese people; as well as the Uigurs, who are potentially able to support Kazakhstan’s independent steps. At the same time the number of Chinese illegal immigrants, Afghans, new and, hence, non-naturalized and possessing no tolerance Kazakh, Uigurian, Dungan, Uzbek immigrants, who have to change their former characteristics of Central Asian Diaspores due to the mass emigration of the Russians, Germans, and other people with European mentality, comparatively high buttering-up to “the natives”, even according to the censored information of the National Committee on Statistics of Kazakhstan has recently increased by 20%. These immigrants and new ethnical groups, as well as the Kurds, Chechens and religious extremists, professional beggars, etc. putting on a masks of refugees from conflict zones in Central Asia and the Caucasus have a comparatively high potential of ethnical excitability and are connected by the principle of a collective solidarity and favoritism, that in condition of the stagnation of the former ethnic-social situation in Central Asia can result in increasing potential criminality and instability in Central Asian countries.

Kazakhstan already (or for the time being?) has lost about 500 sq. km. of its territory...

A significant factor that may affect the situation in southern Kazakhstan is the orientation of the country’s southern regions to Islamic education. Many universities, colleges, schools and cultural centers are influenced and supervised by countries oriented to political Islam.

Official comments on the next, but not last, “refinement of the borders” with China (or new repartition of the Chinese borders, “sintszyan” in Chinese?) that were declared by the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan were quite conciliative and indefinite. We should remember, for example, the circumstances of the conflict between China and India connected with the building of the Karokum motorway, the Chinese military help to Pakistan, and the deal concluded by Kazakhstan and North Korea (the sale and the trial to sell MIGs), - as China is interested in arming this country and possibly, both Russia and China are promoting such “deals.”

Ignoring participation of the population of their countries, the authorities prefer either to hush up or withdraw such potentially dangerous topics from discussion by the society. Undoubtedly, this is not the first, but the next episode in the Chinese history that always hastened its moving deep into Central Asia. Kazakhstan is one of his first goals in this multi-centuries continuous way.

All new Central Asian states have something in common, as they are weak, but afflicted with illusions

Unfortunately, it would be naively to consider that this problem cannot arouse in Kazakhstani-Russian relations. At present Russia is definitely moving towards the supreme power system, which traditionally connected with “collection of lands.” For the time being Kazakhstan enjoys an idealistic image of its “sovereignty”. Russia, undoubtedly, is preparing for delimitation and demarcation of its borders on Kazakhstan. With the new government of the regular intelligence officer V. Putin, which is getting more “post-imperial-powerful-nationalistic”, Astana will not be able to count on obsolete and dull altruism.

All new Central Asian states have something in common, as they are weak, but afflicted with illusions. Ambitions prevent the states from estimating the situation sensibly. But this should have become one of the logical planning of real and hence, responsible policy.

For the period of Kazakhstan’s independence, up to 50% of mostly professional officers have left to Russia, according to some information. The lack of officers was filled by ethnical and senior officers: from captain to colonel. According to the internal logic of underdeveloped, but Orientally ambitious states, they had enough generals, but the quality of the military administration became routine. The real military potential of Central Asia, which received weapons from abroad, first of all from Russia, has abruptly fallen. The army became more independent on external supplies.

According to both regional and western experts, only Tashkent is able to maintain a strong and effective army during the peaceful period. It demonstrated its muscles having bombed the Osh Valley under a comfortable pretence of struggle against Vakhabit troops. The Kyrgyz army appeared completely corrupted and inefficient. In Kazakhstan, apart from corruption, there are endless scandals concerning servicemen; rearrangements and changes to the army’s top commanders. The last of them was caused by the sale of fighters MIGs to North Korea and the trial against the commander of the General headquarter of Kazakhstan. This undermines the Kazakhstan’s army, that is already weak and dependent. After Kazakhstan became “independent”, a lot of well-nourished generals and too thin soldiers appeared in the army. Undoubtedly, many parties are interested in this situation, especially those who are in a position to project such situations.

We remind you that the so-called Vakhabits (by analogy with the events in Dagestan and Chechnya, that happened almost simultaneously with the Kyrgyz incident, the official propaganda calls terrorists) almost for sure are supported by the Talibs who had established diplomatic relations with Chechnya, Pakistan and Majaheds from Afghanistan headed by Usama Ben Laden. At the same time, the first and the second determinations are hastily and primitively made inside the countries. They are poorly proved by documents, hence, they do not reflect all nuances of the situation. That means that they are questionable. We should face the truth: these armed troops consist of Uzbeks and Tajiks. Hence, the factor that Uzbekistan and Tajikistan would like to treat as an internal problem, has become a Trans-bordering and external political factor. The objective of these troops is to change the regimes and to restore “historical territories.” They appropriately stirred up in those territories that have become zones of ethnical conflicts between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations and which will most probably considered as disputable, in case of a forthcoming delimitation of the CIS borders. Characteristically, these regions namely included in the international narcotics transit system, as well as in systems spreading weapons and extremist Islamic ideas. According to preliminary data, the historical slogan of Islamic jihad in Kyrgyzstan and even wide – in Central Asia, is the restoration of the so-called Kokand Emirate, which in the 19th century really included the territories of today’s Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, southern Kazakhstan and Semirechie, Afghanistan and Sintszyan.

(To be continued )


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